An open letter started by Sussex academics has gained over 1,000 signatures.

The letter, entitled ‘Open letter from UK academics: The harsh sentencing of anti-fracking campaigners sets a dangerous precedent’ is a response to jail sentences recently handed to environmental activists.

Originally circulated to University of Sussex academics, the letter has since been opened to, and garnered signatures from, several other UK and international institutions.

It reads: “We the undersigned  re writing to express our growing concern about the shrinking space for communities and environmental defenders to engage in civil opposition to fracking developments in the UK.”

“This avalanche of support sends a strong signal to the government, to those who have been unjustly imprisoned, and those who are continuing the struggle,” state the letter’s initiators Andrea Brock, Judith Verweijen and Amber Huff, based respectively at the International Relations department and the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

Andrea Brock, who started the letter alongside Dr Amber Huff, told The Badger: “Personally I am very happy about the level of support (currently over 1300 signatures, and still going).

“I think many people speaking out across the country is definitely putting a lot of pressure on.”

“I find it extremely disturbing that examples be made of protesters exhibiting nonviolent direct action,’” says Benjamin Neimark, a Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University and member of the Lancaster Environment Centre who signed the letter along with many of his colleagues.

“There is a long history in the UK of direct action and when governments will not stand up for social and environmental wellbeing, the people will.” he added.

Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, Richard Roberts, 36, and Rich Loizou, 31 are said to be the first jailed for anti-fracking protests in the UK.

Convicted of causing a public nuisance, the three were given sentences of between 15 and 16 months.

They were found guilty of climbing the cabs of three lorries transporting shale drilling equipment from Caudrilla’s Little Plumpton base and refusing to leave for between 45 and 84 hours.

Julian Brock, 47, was also given an 18 month suspended prison sentence for public nuisance after a guilty plea.

The sentencing has been met with anger by environmental and activist groups who say the sentences are overly harsh.

Friends, family and supporters staged a demonstration outside the prison where the activists are being held in Preston on October 6.

The government gave Cuadrilla permission to create a fracking well in Lancashire, which has been the subject of continual protest and objection since 2016.

Fracking is banned in several EU countries.

The fracking activists are set to appeal their sentences.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons: greensefa

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